SS Pacific

Gold rush paddle steamer. Pacific is the worst maritime tragedy in Pacific coast history. Only two survivors. The official death toll ranges from 170 to over 300 including all women and children.
by Matthew Anderson


Year Built

1851

Year Sank

1875

Depth

939 ft (286.2 m)

Difficulty Level

--


SS Pacific

Wreck Location

The Pacific lies little over 12 miles off Tatoosh Island at Cape Flattery, Washington state. The location is at the mouth to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the seaway between Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula which ships use daily coming to and from ports on Vancouver Island, or in the Puget Sound, such as Victoria, BC and Seattle, Washington. About 22 miles to the north lies the wreck of the steamship Valencia, which ran aground and sunk off Pachena Point, Vancouver Island in January 1906. 32 miles to the southwest is the wreck of the World War II era freighter Coast Trader, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine early in the war. The general region of ocean the Pacific lies in is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. The location of the shipwreck is listed at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the AWOIS Wreck Data provided by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Interestingly enough, one book, "Great Shipwrecks of the Pacific Coast" by Robert C. Belyk, lists the wreck having occurred 80 miles south of Cape Flattery. This is further backed by the Wikipedia article. HistoryLink.org, a Washington state history online database, states the collision and sinking occurred 40 miles southwest of Cape Flattery. Wrecksites.eu however supports the NOAA data. The NOAA position, at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, appears to make the most sense, as many of the bodies and debris were found in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Furthermore, Captain Sawyer of the Orpheus, which collided with and sank the Pacific, reported spotting the Cape Flattery Light off his starboard bow and the oncoming Pacific off his port. The Cape Flattery Light is on Tatoosh Island at the southern tip of the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Survivor Neil O. Henly was found clinging to a piece of debris at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. From the other positions, the light would be more difficult to spot against the light of the Pacific. Lastly, shipwreck data from NOAA is scientifically and factually grounded based off detailed shipwreck expert scrutiny and modern underwater sonar techonolgy whereas the other positions are likely based off less credible 1870s newspaper accounts.

~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude:   48° 22' 59.2212" N      Longitude:   -125° 0' 4.8996" W

Description

Diving Pacific would be impossible. It lies at over 900 feet below sea level, far too deep for even technical scuba diving. The wreck would need to be explored with an ROV or a manned submersible. While the position of the wreck has been confirmed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are no records online to indicate the Pacific has ever been documented or dived. The wreck likely lies in several pieces and is mostly rotted away to nothing, as the ship was already an unseaworthy rotting wood hulk and broke apart into many pieces when she sank in 1875. A small sum in gold is rumored to be on the wreck site, the former possessions of deceased passengers. The exact amount of supposed treasure is unknown and varies between $40,000 to $100,000 in 1875 terms.

Footnotes

SS Pacific

Built in 1851 by William H. Brown in New York, the Pacific was originally a coastal paddle steamer between Panama and San Francisco for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. In the 1860s, she was sold to the Goodall, Nelson and Perkins Steamship Company and placed on the route between Victoria, BC and San Francisco with stopovers in Puget Sound to serve the Cassiar Gold Rush. By this point, her owners had neglected her enough that she was in terrible condition. On November 4, 1875, leaving port nearly capsizing due to her unseaworthy rotted hull, Pacific collided with the steamship Orpheus later that night, destroying her bow completely. Pacific immediately broke apart and sank killing all but two of her passengers and crew. The death toll is believed to be between 275 and 300. The two survivors barely hung on through the night suffering from hypothermia before rescue the next morning.




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2 Comments & Ratings

anonymous by JAY LlEGAULT on 7/27/2018

I STRONGLY DISAGREE AS TO THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE 'SUNKEN' SS PACIFIC. THE CREW OF THE ORPHEOUS COULDN'T SEE THE LIGHTHOUSE BECAUSE THEY WERE TOO CLOSE TO SHORE AND BEHIND CAPE ALVA. REMEMBER THE CAPTAIN TOLD THE FIRST MATE AND LOOKOUT TO KEEP LANDFALL IN SITE. WITH THE SKY DARK THE OUTLINE OF THE OLYMPICS WEREN'T SHOWING UP.. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE pACIFIC? THIS IS WHAT PUT THEM ON COLLISION COURSE THE ORPHEOUS WAS TOO CLOSE TO SHORE BEHIND CAPE ALVA AND COULD SEE THE SS PACIFIC AS IT ROUNDED THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE CAPE THEY THOUGHT THE LITES WERE THE LIGHTHOUSE BUT THEY WERE FROM THE
SS PACIFIC IT WAS STAYING BEHIND CAPE ALVA TO KEEP FROM LOSING HEADWAY, A GOOD MOVE ON THE CAPTAINS PART. IF ONLY THE ORPHEOUS HAD WENT OUT TO THE SHIPPING LANES 10 TO 12 MILES OUT THIS WRECK WOULDNT OF HAVE HAPPENED.SO BY REASONING WITH TESTIMENTS OF SURVIVORS AND THE REALITY THAT NEITHER SHIP WAS WHERE IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN, THEY COLLIDED AND THE SS PACIFIC SANK NEAR LAND IN ABOUT 80 TO 90 FEET OF WATER. AND WHEN IT TWISTED AND SANK WITH THE FUNNEL POINTING DOWN AND IF THE BOILERS AND STEAM TANKS WERE STILL ATTATCHED THEN IT ACTED LIKE AN UPSIDE DOWN BEER BOTTLE AND NEVER SANK TO THE BOTTOM BUT REACHED BOUYANCY WITH THE WHOLE STEAM ENGINE ACTING LIKE FLOAT AND THEN THE BIG ONCE MIGHTY SHIP, THE SS PACIFIC WAS PUSHED BY THE JAPANEESE CURRENTS INTO OUR SHORE POSSIBLY COMING TO REST IN AS LITTLE AS 30 TO 50 FEET AND JUST A STONES THROW OFF THE BEACH. THEY MOSTLY TESTIFIED THAT THEY WERE OUT IN THE LANES TO COVER THEIR ASSES BECAUSE THATS WHERE THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN, BUT THE 20 MPH HEADWIND THE PACIFIC MET WHEN ROUNDING CORNER AT THE CAPE.AND THE JAPANEESE PUSH ON OUR SHORE RESULTED IN A GOLD TREASURE IN SHALLOW WATER MAYBE IT WAS PUSHED UP ON THE BEACH AND THE WRECK ISNT EVEN SUBMERGED? THE TESTIMONY AT OFFICIAL INQUEST WAS MOSTLY TO AQUITT THE CAPTAINS

anonymous by Geno Solias on 12/14/2018

So whats your guess on latitude/longitude of the SS Pacific Jay?

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